the adventures of scott & abby.

a multi-media travelogue of scott and abby's time in latin america.

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Walking through the streets of Antigua is a breath-taking experience. Not only is the city surrounded by volcanoes, it is filled with towering churches, ancient ruins, colorful doors, and beautiful people.

Click HERE for a photo tour of Antigua!

Antigua to Roatan (and back again).

    

Abby and I continue to rack up the kilometers of travel- this time on shuttles, buses and ferries on a trip to Roatan, Honduras.  We met Abby’s sister, Anne, and her boyfriend for a week on the Caribbean island.  We had a fantastic week and even defied the odds and enjoyed more sun than clouds, which is a rarity in November.

Abby endured a seven hour shuttle ride back to Antigua on her 25th birthday; the highlight of which was sweet talking the border official to grant us a free pass into Guatemala on account of her special day.  Now we just need to decide how to spend the 45 quetzales ($6) we saved.

A forgettable birthday had a very pleasant ending when, at the end of the night, we were able to get into our apartment for the first time.  It feels so good to actually unpack our things and prepare for a bit of routine and normalcy.  We filled our fridge with groceries, got a gym membership and started plotting our next move.  Right now, it looks very much like the future will hold some longer-term volunteering here in Antigua.  There are a myriad of NGOs here in Antigua that are doing some really awesome work, so it is exciting to figure out how we may fit into one of them.

So, in the next month or so we have the pleasant duty of visiting some of these projects, setting up meetings and hopefully lining some work up for 2012.

   Photos have been update on Flickr.

  Reading List has been updated.

Let us know if you have any recommendations for good books! Our pile is getting low.

Antigua to Cleveland (and back again).

   

Abby and I are back from a wonderful, whirlwind, wedding weekend (alliteration unintentional).  One thing is for sure, a bed at the Days Inn never seemed so luxurious.  We soaked in all the little joys of life in the States; including, but not limited to sidewalks, pressurized showers, draft beer and ESPN.  At the risk of sounding cheesy, we would both say that the most pleasant part of the trip was reconnecting with friends and family.  We laughed extensively with all our Michigan-friends who were in attendance and had a nice post-wedding trip with our parents.  Even my brother, sister-in-law, and niece came down to hang out for a day.

 We returned to Antigua yesterday afternoon after a long flight and planned to grab a quick nap before running some errands.  We laid our heads down on our pillows and didn’t wake till the next morning, 16-hours later.  Apparently the trip was big on fun, but short on sleep.

Now, we are well-rested and making preparations to meet Anne (Abby’s sister) and her boyfriend in Roatan, Honduras.  Abby and I have both been to Roatan before and it is one of the most beautiful places either of us have ever been.  It will actually be our first beach experience since arriving in Central America over four months ago.  For those of you who thought our Catamaran was beached in a Caribbean utopia, see the picture below.  Then, compare it to where we are headed.  We are very much excited!

           

           


Leaving Caimanes.

     

We said our goodbyes to the boat, Rio Dulce and the people of Punta Caimanes.  Our last few days were a flurry of last minute preparations and mixed emotions.  We are excited for our return to civilization, but as our time in Caimanes grew shorter, our fondness for the project and our affection for the people grew clearer.  We have been so fortunate to be a part of this community for the past months and we feel a real sense of satisfaction for the work we’ve done.  

Gracie

We briefly considered an impromptu, backpack adoption of our little Guatemalan neighbor (as pictured below).  However, given the state of our expired Visas, we thought it better not to add human trafficking to our rap sheet.  Time will tell if Abby, or Gracie, can live without the other.

                

Los Bathrooms

In atypical Guatemalan style, the bathroom construction progressed more or less as planned.  Thanks again for all those generous folks back home that helped out!

A huge rain (and subsequent flood) happened to correspond with the first day of construction; in fact, there is still standing water throughout the village.  There was moment when it looked like the truck carrying the materials wouldn’t be able to reach our underwater school.  But, the truck made it far enough for the kids to shuttle the materials down the flooded streets on canoes.

The children have been elated about the school’s new addition.  They have been hanging around the school during the afternoon watching the new walls slowing ascend.  The older boys have been a huge help hauling bricks, mixing concrete, and bending re-bar.  They sometimes stay late into the afternoon, after the paid workers have left.  There was also quite a buzz the day the toilets arrived.  The shiny white bowls were quite an attraction.  I do not know this for sure, but I think these will be the only porcelain toilets in town.

When the first new wall was complete, Abby and I painted a large mural on the side facing the classroom.  Thanks mostly to Abby, it turned out quite nice.  You can see some photos of the finished project, as well as the bathroom construction, by clicking HERE.  The Spanish text you will see translates as follows:

“With education, we can reach the ends of the earth without leaving our desks.”

  

   

Estamos Scrapbookando

We also managed to sneak in one last art project during our final few days in Caimanes.  We thought it was important to leave them with a real, authentic American tradition: scrapbooking.  We printed a handful of photos of each student, and with some stickers, cardstock and markers, they created a photo book of our time together.  No one in Caimanes owns a camera, let alone prints photos, so the kids were more than a little excited for this project.

    

So, we are writing this post from Antigua.  We are taking a breath and enjoying the crisp air, flush toilets, sidewalks, wifi, electricity and connection that we have been missing.  We are going to rest up for what should be a frenzy (in a very good way) of a weekend in Ohio reconnecting with friends/family and celebrating our friends’ marriage.

Photos have been updated on Flickr

MVI_4506 on Flickr.

English Class.

The Home Stretch.

These are our last days on the boat and they have been full of action.  Here are some highlights:

Visitations:  We had visitors!  Our very own Nick Brown (ex-housemate from Seattle and Point Loma Graduate) drove down from Mexico with his brother-in-law to spend a few nights in the Catamaran Campground.  Nick was visiting his brother-in-law, who is a house parent for an orphanage in Oaxaca.  They were greeted by an authentic Guatemalan experience as they completed a 16-hour drive only to find the river separating us from our boat (and bed) had swelled to uncrossable proportions.  So, we were forced to wake up a friend from town at 11 p.m. who led us-shotgun in tow- across a bridge upstream. 

It was a strange, nice feeling to have friends visit.  Abby and I have been in our own secluded world and it was a new experience to actually share it with somebody else.  We realized that we weren’t being babies about the heat when Nick said, “I feel like I can’t breathe”, referencing the humidity.  We also had some fresh perspective for the uniqueness of our lives here when Nick (someone who hiked from Mexico to Canada) kept saying, “I can’t believe you guys are doing this!”

Under Construction: The bathroom renovation is underway!  There were some tense moments when the town flooded and it looked like we may not be able to get the supplies in.  But, the truck came as far as it could and the students shuttled everything in through the flooded streets on canoes.  The flooding will probably prevent us from finishing completely, but the progress thus far has been exciting.  You would never think that the sight of porcelain toilets would make a child’s face light up.

      

 

Separation Anxiety: One of the difficult parts of living in the middle of nowhere- for me at least- is being so out of touch with sports.  This is usually a peripheral annoyance, but when the Tigers are in the playoffs I get a little antsy.  When they are on the verge of eliminating a certain overpaid team from New York, I start to wish I was in a sports bar in Grand Rapids.  Our weak internet on the boat prevents us from even listening to an audio stream.  After one horrific game of watching the box-score go by, I was able to find another solution.  We skyped with my Dad, who played the radio feed of the game next to the computer. Through a 3-hour call, were able to listen to the entirety of the game that sent the Tigers to the ALCS. 

     

We leave the boat next week.  From there we have a few days to acclimate to sub-90-degree weather in Antigua before returning to the States for long weekend to attend a friend’s wedding.  We are excited for both these trips; and to see what the next leg of our trip has in store for us. 

A Reason to Smile.

          

Apparently, our friends and family are a super, amazing, generous group of people.  Less than a week from our last post explaining the need for a new bathroom for the school, we are happy to announce that we have raised enough money to complete the project.  Thank you, Thank You, Thank You to everyone who pitched in to make this possible.

Abby and I are very excited to get everything underway.  The first round of materials should arrive tomorrow morning.  We have been in Guatemala long enough to know that things will certainly not go as planned, but we are holding out hope that we can finish the bathrooms before leaving in mid-October.  We will keep you posted on the progress.  Thanks again!

Help Us!

               

The picture above shows the school’s current bathroom situation.  Besides being gross, this setup is generally unhygienic because all the waste just sits in a pit below, gathering lots of insects and bacteria.  To top it off, when there is a hard rain the area around the “bathrooms” can flood for days.

In the States, this problem would be rectified by the school district or the state with taxpayers’ money.  You probably won’t be surprised to hear that things are not so simple for a rural school in Guatemala.  From what we have gathered from conversations with Marvin, the teacher at Punta Caimanes, the government covers the cost of building the school and the teachers’ salaries.  That leaves school materials, cleaning supplies, and building renovations the responsibility of the community.  And, while the folks in Punta Caimanes are rich in relationships and fried seafood, they don’t have a pot to piss in (pardon my Spanish) when it comes to donating cash for a school project.  Marvin recently told us about the difficulty he had getting the students’ parents to buy some bleach for cleaning (at $.75 a gallon).  All this to say, there are not a lot a feasible solutions for the school to get a sanitary place for the students to do their business. 

Abby and I have been discussing a renovation plan with Marvin that would put proper bathrooms inside the school building.  This would be a sustainable bathroom solution for many, many years.  In a recent community meeting, the parents committed to pitching in with labor (digging, hauling sand and gravel etc.) if we could find a way to purchase the materials.  The total project would cost around $1,000 and Abby and I would really like to make this happen.  So, yes, we are going to ask YOU to help out.  If this sounds like something you would like to be a part of, we really could use your help raising this money.  If you want to help out, please send us an email (scottverkaik@gmail.com) or send Abby a message on Facebook.  If you know someone who may be interested in this, please pass along this post.

The project would only take a couple weeks to complete, so if we can get this money together, we can post photos of the completed work before we leave.

Many Thanks,

Scott & Abby

Dancing with Gracie

You know your social life has taken an odd turn when your Friday night consists of a 3 person dance party with a 5-year-old Mayan girl.

Same Kids, New Photos.

      

Quick update from Punta Caimanes.  Time is flying here and we are probably as surprised as you all to see September almost passed.  We will be leaving the Catamaran Campground in Mid October for a friend’s wedding in Ohio, and are feeling the pressure to squeeze every drop of life out of these last few weeks.

Abby has updated the School Days & Punta Caimanes Sets on Flickr.  As the title of this post suggests, they all feature the same kids, but you may notice they are much cuter since we last posted.  Most of the photos document our latest art project.  Again, we had a great turnout, energetic participation, and the kids made some cool crafts.

In other news, it is really hot here.

Hello Rio Dulce, My Name is Abby.

     

                      Click HERE for a photo tour of my day in Rio Dulce.

Adventures on a Good Ship.

As we mentioned earlier, Biff, the owner of Poco a Poco, has big plans for the boat.  The work in the community here in Punta Caimanes is just the start.  If you are interested in learning about the long-term vision, which includes cross-continent humanitarian voyages, check out the project’s website here.  Biff is a pretty inspiring guy and the site features some of the work Abby and I have been involved in.

Illegal Aliens.

      

Today is significant because it marks 3 months on the road.  It also marks the end of our tourist visas for Guatemala.  Renewing the visas would entail a three day trip out of the country, but we just took a trip and don’t really want to leave the boat again.  So, we are going to be putting our hopes in the inefficiency of Guatemala and bet that we pass unnoticed (from research we have done this looks like a strong possibility).  The worse case scenario would be a dollar-per-day charge for overstaying, but even this would be more desirable and less costly than a three night trip out of the country.

To commemorate our three months traveling and our newly minted status as illegals, we decided to do a retrospective blog post in Abby’s most favorite literary form: LISTS!

Glad We Packed:

Should Have Left Home:

  • Books (too heavy & the hostel exchanges have some great books)
  • Ukulele (haven’t given up total hope, but it is far too hot here to learn a new instrument)
  • Anything with sleeves or pant-legs
  • Make-up (haven’t used it yet)

Things We Miss:

  • Carpet
  • Draft beer
  • Reliable Wifi
  • Recycling
  • Reliable transportation
  • Sub 90 degree temps
  • Running water
  • People
  • Vanilla lattes
  • Furniture that’s not made of plastic

Things We Love:

  • Bathing/doing laundry in the river
  • La Paca (2nd hand clothing stores)
  • Reading for pleasure
  • The kids (English classes, art projects, soccer games, etc.)
  • Bracelets (Abby has been collecting bracelets along the way, each one symbolizing a different part of our trip)
  • Kayaking & Yoga
  • Tortillas & black beans
  • Fruits/veggies=cheap! (example: box of black berries costs $0.65)
  • Spending every waking moment together (this could also go in another list entitled “Ways to End a Marriage”)
  • The beautiful surroundings

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